Taking Aim At The United States, Putin Casts Ukraine War As An Existential Conflict For Russia

Russian President Vladimir Putin's aggrieved but triumphant tone during the September 30 address contrasted with the stark reality of how the war in Ukraine is going for the Russian armed forces.

The speech was expected to be about Ukraine, where Russia's military is struggling seven months into its invasion and where Moscow is claiming four partially occupied regions as its own in a land grab condemned by Kyiv and the West.

However, the bulk of Russian President Vladimir Putin's nationally televised address from the Kremlin's opulent St. George's Hall on September 30 was devoted to a vitriolic attack on the United States and its allies. Before an audience of ruling elites -- both chambers of parliament, regional governors, security and military officials, and others -- Putin portrayed the country as defiant in the throes of an existential conflict with a "satanic" enemy bent on destroying Russia, its culture, and what he called its "traditional values."

He all but ignored the actual conflict that he dramatically escalated in February by launching a large-scale invasion of Ukraine, as well as the battlefield setbacks that pose a serious challenge to his ambitions.

"Western elites deny not only national sovereignty and international law; their hegemony has the pronounced character of totalitarianism, despotism, and apartheid," Putin asserted. "They brazenly divide the world into their vassals, into so-called civilized countries and everyone else who, according to today's Western racists, must join the ranks of barbarians and savages." It was "the most anti-American speech that Vladimir Putin has ever made," Yelena Chernenko, a well-known journalist for the Moscow newspaper Kommersant, said in a post on Twitter.

Putin's aggrieved but triumphant tone contrasted with the stark reality of how the war in Ukraine is going for the Russian armed forces.

Russia may have suffered as many as 80,000 casualties since February 24, Western intelligence officials estimate, a substantial loss that was what spurred Putin to order a military mobilization last week.

That order, which officially envisions as many as 300,000 new troops being sent to Ukraine, set off protests in many regions that rarely see public demonstrations.